What Should You Do if Your Boss Finds Out You're Looking for a New Job?
When Ja'Naea Modest attended a job fair in Chicago earlier this month, she had no idea that a video of her at the event shot by a local news outlet would turn her into a viral sensation on social media. Almost overnight, she became the "poster child" for what could very well be a job seeker's worst nightmare: a boss or employer discovering you're looking for a new job.
Not everyone will be outed in such a highly public way as Modest experienced. Maybe someone accidentally let it slip that you’re looking for another job, or maybe you just happened to leave your resume on the copier. However it happens, you need to deal with it professionally, without burning bridges. So, if you're currently employed but on the hunt for a new job, it's worth considering how you should react if your boss questions you about your intentions over leaving.
Think about this before you begin your job search. How do you want to handle the possibility of having to explain yourself in this situation? Do you have the kind of boss who is hoping to keep you and will be open to helping you find a solution within the company? Or is your boss going to shut you out and make your life miserable?
Plan a strategy ahead of time
You’ll be better able to deal with questions about your job search if you’ve taken the time to think about the following issues:
- Is your boss really volatile? Does he/she get really emotional?
- What’s the worse-case scenario if your boss finds out you’re looking?
- Do you think your boss will feel betrayed and shut you out?
- Might it help to be pro-active and share your concerns with your boss before you start looking?
- Can you handle a direct confrontation? What will you do/say?
- What’s your goal? Do you really need to leave or are you looking for a change at your current job?
- Are you prepared to leave right away if you have to?
6 ways to explain to your boss why you're on the job search:
- DON'T LIE: If you’re asked, answer honestly. Tell him/her that you’ve been considering other options and also why. If you’re looking for a bigger challenge, more responsibility, etc., maybe your boss can expand your current role and offer some options. If you aren’t unhappy at the company, this could be a way to stay and advance your career. If not, you hopefully haven’t hurt the relationship and your boss may be willing to be a good reference for you.
- SHARE "WHY" YOU'RE LOOKING: Maybe you need to move out of town for a spouse’s transfer. Or, you have a family member who needs support, or you want to move into a different area of hospitality. If you have a solid reason that has nothing to do with your current job satisfaction level, why not share it? You never know… your boss may be willing to connect you with someone they know in another location or department who can assist you in your search.
- EXPLAIN THAT A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FELL IN YOUR LAP: What if you really dislike your boss or your colleagues and you need to leave for your (mental) health? When your boss asks if you’re looking, you might say you were recommended for a position by a former colleague and had an opportunity to see what others are doing in your line of work. You didn’t “intentionally” go looking, this just opened up and you took advantage of it.
- BE PROFESSIONAL Although the discussion might be awkward, or even heated, rely on your professional attitude. Stick to the facts, be honest and explore your options with your boss. Who knows, it could lead to a promotion or more responsibility.
- EMPHASIZE YOUR CONTINUING COMMITTMENT: Now that your boss knows you’ve been looking, you need to reassure him that you will continue to focus on your work and do the best job you can… and then actually do it. Make sure you’re not ditching meetings or shifts to go on interviews, making up excuses or not pulling your weight with the team.
- ADMIT IF YOU'RE CONCERNED ABOUT JOB SECURITY: If you feel like lay-offs are coming and are worried about keeping your job, you should share that with your boss. He/she may be willing to share some information that can calm your nerves, or confirm that changes are coming. Either way, you can use that information to make a firm decision to go or to stay.